Five things Friday roundup: thank God for fútbol

Friends gather in fellowship at a Phoenix Rising Game. Saturday, August 5, 2023. Pictured: Alisha Garber (left), Steve Schrock, Hannah Posadny, Marlys Weaver, Jesse Bontrager, Asher Garber, and Josh Garber.

Do you have a place or activity that just makes you feel alive — like where you’re your most you, unfiltered and unabashed? For me, it’s at the soccer pitch. Playing, attending, watching on TV, listening on the radio– all of it. Soccer, or fútbol as many call it, is communal and brutal and beautiful and perfect. The FIFA World Cup (both men’s and women’s) dominates my schedule when it rolls around, and I’m giddy like a kid on Christmas morn to meet up with friends to tune in. No matter where I’ve lived, making my way to the local pub to watch fútbol with friends has been a holy pilgrimage. It’s a place of sweet escape and yet incredible connection. Whether it’s soccer season or not, I’ve been lucky to find a few ways to ride that fútbol is life high in the on and off seasons.

1. Ted Lasso

Okay, no spoilers, but the Apple+ series Ted Lasso is an absolute treasure, not just for soccer fans, but for fans of humanity. A compassionate comedy starring Jason Sudeikis, Ted Lasso focuses on the journey of an American Football coach from Wichita, Kansas, who is hired to coach Football Club Richmond in England, knowing nothing about soccer. Coach Lasso’s folksy optimism hit me in a season when I’d forgotten that humans were intrinsically good . . . and his kindness fueled me to power through the darkness. 

2. Welcome to Wrexham

A documentary series on the FX network follows the journey of Wrexham Football Club, a Welsh fútbol team purchased by North American actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney. This down-on-its-luck soccer club is the heartbeat of a blue-collar mining town, and the show is as much about the game as it is the human connections inspired by their work on the pitch. It’s impossible not to cheer on the Red Dragons as they strive for promotion, falling in love with fútbol all over again, with every episode. 

3. Keegan Rosenberry  

If you don’t know this name, google it. Keegan Rosenberry is a Mennonite marvel who rose from humble roots on the Lancaster Mennonite High School’s soccer pitch to playing now as a professional right-back for a major league soccer club, the Colorado Rapids. May we all play The Mennonite Game with the same fervor that Keegan plays soccer — fueled by egg noodles and shoofly pie.    

4. Phoenix Rising

Finding myself planted in Phoenix, Arizona, this year has been an incredible blessing in many ways. Reconnecting with my home church, Trinity Mennonite in Glendale, Arizona, has refilled my cup after almost a decade away in international faith work. By divine providence, our recall to the desert coincided with an amazing season by the Phoenix Rising Fútbol Club. The Rising, after a rocky season of draws and penalty shootouts, rose from the ashes and earned the title of 2023 USA Champions. Watching those matches in person at the Rising Stadium (only 11 minutes from my house), gathering at the pub to tune in to away games with fellow fans, and listening to the championship match on the radio was a welcome escape and a reason to celebrate. Did I cry when they won? Oh, yes, I did.

5. Asher’s first Soccer Team Experience

#ProudMomAlert. This year, our son Asher played his first season of soccer with the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Youth Soccer League. Only 11 days after his birth in Klaipeda, Lithuania, he attended his first match, and then growing up in Barcelona, Spain, Asher has soccer firmly seeded in his heart. Watching his love for the sport (and soccer fundamentals) bloom this year has been such an absolute pleasure. His team, The Lightning, didn’t win a single match, but that didn’t matter. Those kiddos played with such grit and displayed amazing character; it’s hard to deny that kids are truly the best of us.  

Thank God for fútbol

Alisha and Josh Garber

Alisha and Josh Garber are in a season of discernment. After over a decade of mission work in Europe, they Read More

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